A New Year in Arizona: Exploring Mesa, Phoenix and Tucson

 
Photo: Jeff Santangelo

Photo: Jeff Santangelo

There is something magical to the end of a year. It’s as if we’re given the opportunity for a do-over, to do away with another twelve months that may or may not have served its purpose. January arrives, and we are ignited with hope and faith, a chance to start again. Years seem to run either good or bad, and 2014 had unfortunately, save for the last few weeks, been one of the more stagnant of celestial rotations in my path.

I was ready when 2015 began. There were, finally, new opportunities abound. A ‘detox in the desert’ media trip to Arizona fit perfectly into my new year plan; a gift of time, connection, and introspection. An opportunity to explore an area of the country I had yet to see. An opportunity to explore areas of my mind and heart during the time of year when reflection and renewal is at the forefront of most people’s minds. The destination just as important as the journey.

Arizona greeted me with open arms with its red brown sandy skin, the prickles of cacti in every shape and size, the shimmer of sunrises and sunsets reflecting from the surrounding mountains. We explored Mesa first, rising early for guided yoga at the Visitor Center of the Usery Mountain Regional Park (an opportunity available for any visitor – not just us media folk). We joined with Mandy Snell, a life coach/mentor with Meaning in Motion, who worked with us each of us as we hiked up the western edge of the Goldfield Mountains.

“What makes you unique?” she asked me as I huffed my way through the winding trail.

“My stories,” I laughed. “All of my crazy experiences, and the stories.”

Reaching the Wind Cave, our destination after two hours up, we were instructed to write our intentions for the year on small chalkboards. Tell my tales, I scrawled on the tablet, looking out across the terrain. Yes, this was the year.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona [DAILYBLENDER.COM]

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona [DAILYBLENDER.COM]

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

True Food Kitchen, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

True Food Kitchen, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]


Tales were told when I shared a dinner table with Denise Seomin, the Director of Public Relations at The Phoenician, a few days later at the hotel’s Il Terrazzo. On the morning of the mountain hike, I had overheard a segment on the local news discussing where President Obama, in town for just a quick day visit, had stayed previously while in the Phoenix area. The Phoenician, a Scottsdale destination well-known for both its luxury and privacy, was of course on the list. It was my first question of the evening.

Ms. Seomin beamed as she told the story of the President’s 2009 visit with the First Family. Instructed by the Press Office to not discuss the stay until after departure, Seomin kicked local media off the hotel’s property and ultimately had to stop answering her phone while she managed the onsite logistics. I was honored to roam the same halls.

Our professional stories evolved into stories of our favorite sports teams, diehard rivals no doubt, and as dinner moved to digestifs and desserts, I was thankful to have such tales to tell.

The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

High Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

High Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., Gilbert, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., Gilbert, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

My venture to Tucson, the final destination of my Arizona itinerary, conjured up tales of its own. Before departing Phoenix, I dined with family members I see very rarely, a meal filled with moments and conversation that reminded me of my younger years, my childhood. Memories of Jen at age five or ten. On the open drive south, I thought about the connections I had to Tucson – a dear friend who’d attended college there, an aunt and uncle stationed nearby. More tales.

Into the city limits, I arrived at the Hotel Congress to the hustle and bustle of people congregating in the outside courtyard for an afternoon concert. The downtown hotel, famous in its own right for being the place where historic outlaw John Dillinger had been captured, was host to mid-day performances of the Concert for Civility, an annual music gathering to raise funds for local mental health initiatives, assembled in 2011 following the shooting in Tucson targeting Representative Gabrielle Giffords. After dinner at the hotel’s Cup Cafe, I attended the headliner concert, where latin rock’s Ozomatli took the stage at the nearby Rialto Theatre to bring the day long event to a close.

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Cup Cafe, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

The Rialto, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

The Rialto, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Tanias 33, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Tanias 33, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

El Tiradito "The Wishing Shrine", Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

El Tiradito “The Wishing Shrine”, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Lodge on the Desert, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

Lodge on the Desert, Tucson, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona  [dailyblender.com]

The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona [dailyblender.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more tale down…

~Jennifer Heigl
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender

 

**Many thanks to Visit Mesa, Visit Phoenix, and Visit Tucson for inviting me to on this hosted press trip. Now I understand why people love Arizona.